From Memes to Moon Landings: The Unexpected History of “OK”

Now, please take your right hand, connect your thumb and index finger to form a small circle, and then straighten the other three fingers. Congratulations, you made the popular gesture as quickly as possible – OK. This classic and familiar gesture is one of the body languages ​​commonly used in cross-cultural communication, and it all comes from the most famous English word “OK” in the world.

No one will be unfamiliar with the English word “OK”. When you pick up the remote control or mobile phone, the OK button will be there quietly. It is simple and natural, with a touch of humor. Even the buttons commonly used in your home Smart home robots and AI voice assistants are familiar with this word. In daily communication, it has become an English word that you use more frequently. It is often present in music lyrics and movie lines. But did you know that “OK” was the first English word spoken when humans first landed on the moon? In 1969, the first words astronaut Aldrin said on the moon were “OK, stop the engine.” At the same time, “OK” has become the only English word that does not need to be translated in the United Nations agency where 6 languages ​​are used every day, because almost everyone understands its meaning.

Why has this English word consisting of only two letters become the common language of the world with its super high recognition and extraordinary resonance? If you explore the history of “OK”, you will find that “OK” has actually been popular around the world for more than 180 years.
Fashionable – a “popular Internet meme” more than 180 years ago

The origin of “OK” can be traced back to the 1830s, when intellectuals living in Boston liked to deliberately misspell English words and change them to abbreviations to create some interesting slang. They used wild abbreviations as code-like language for mental communication. Unspoken communication. Among the many abbreviations that were created, one abbreviation was quietly born, and it is “OK”. At that time, “OK” meant “completely correct” and was used to express a positive attitude towards reasonable things. It was a veritable “popular Internet meme” more than 180 years ago.

However, at that time, “OK” was just a colloquial term used by small groups to communicate in informal settings. It was not until March 23, 1839, that the “Boston Morning News” published an article in which people discovered the word “OK”. “This English word was printed in a newspaper for the first time. This is a monumental moment when “OK” became a written language, and the little “OK” shines. According to the editors of newspapers at the time, they would also use “OK” to express “completely correct” when signing their opinions. Later, other newspapers followed the “OK” trend and used the English word in their newspapers.
Clever—becoming the President’s “nickname”

Did you think this was the end? No, appearing in newspapers is just a small step in the development of the English word “OK”. It has actually reached the stage of the US presidential election.

The thing is, during the huge US presidential election in 1840, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States from the Kinderhook area of ​​New York State, also participated. In order to support him, his supporters gave him the clever nickname Old Kinderhook (Old Kinderhook), or O.K. for short, and used “O.K. is OK” as the campaign slogan, which means “Just elect him.” “. Meanwhile, supporters have created “OK” clubs across the country to support him. The English word “OK” quickly became known to the public during the election wave. But rivals tampered with his campaign slogan, twisting “OK” to mean something else to attack him, and ultimately the playful nickname did little to help Martin Van Buren win.

In this way, “OK” quietly completed the perfect evolution from “popular Internet meme” to written language, and then to the serious political stage. This election has completely made “OK” a mantra for Americans, and everyone knows it. At the same time, people also designed exclusive gestures for it that are both classic and humorous, which undoubtedly increased the popularity of “OK”.
Neutral – Confirm but don’t evaluate

After leaving the stage of the presidential campaign, the English word “OK” did not stop there. It moved firmly towards a more reasonable and practical field. Listen, there is a “tick-tick-tick” sound in the distance. Yes, this is the telegraph.

A few years after the English word “OK” became famous, the telegraph was born. This earliest reliable method of instant long-distance communication that uses electricity to transmit information has entered the public eye. It converts short messages into the form of electrical pulses, using the “on and off” and “length” of the current to represent different letter. In this case, letter choice is extremely critical. Because the letters are easy to type, difficult to mix up, easy to operate and highly recognizable, “OK” stands out and becomes the official reply for successful acceptance of telegram messages. In other words, only when the receiver returns an “OK” Morse code signal can the message be confirmed to have been successfully sent. Since then, the English word “OK” has been introduced to China through the telegraph industry and has become an extremely practical language.

After entering the communications industry because of its concise letters and clear meaning, “OK” was also favored by major companies because of other characteristics. This feature is the appearance of “OK”, especially the English letter “K”. We can recall that there are far fewer words starting with “K” in English than words starting with other letters, so in order to visually attract the eye, major companies at that time used words starting with “K” instead of “C” Words that begin with “. We can get a glimpse of it from the brand trademarks of many modern companies. For example, Krispy Kreme, a large donut chain brand in the United States, changed the initial letter “C” of crispy (crispy) to “K”. “K” makes these brands visually stand out.

Nowadays, we use the English word “OK” to mean a neutral affirmation. When replying to an event invitation, you reply “OK” to indicate that you are willing to go; when rating the food at a restaurant, you comment “OK” to indicate that the food tastes good; when a friend asks you how you are doing or how things are going, you reply “OK” “It means everything went smoothly and on schedule. “OK” has become an instinctive verbal response. The best thing about it is that it expresses confirmation semantically, but does not evaluate it. It is neutral and practical, and it conveys our feelings and attitudes vividly and conveniently.

Now you understand, there are many reasons why “OK” has been popular for hundreds of years and popular all over the world. No matter where you go, you can express your peace of mind with “OK”.

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